The Vatican Christmas Cookbook
Just in time for Christmas, The Vatican Christmas Cookbook is a cookbook that should be under many Christmas trees and eventually on coffee tables and in kitchens. David Geisser, Swiss Guard Emeritus and Swiss Chef and Thomas Kelly embarked on a second collaboration with this sequel to The Vatican Cookbook (which I reviewed in 2016), both published by Sophia Institute Press.
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The book does not disappoint. There is something that will appeal to everyone in this cookbook, even if you never try a recipe—Catholic faith information, particularly on the feasts, Vatican history, culture, gorgeous photography and personal anecdotes by former Pontifical Swiss Guards.
Over 60 recipes fill the 178 pages of this beautiful hardcover book. The book is organized into Advent, Christmas Eve and Christmas, Christmas with the Popes, Christmas Desserts and Cookies, Christmas Around the World and Epiphany.
The Advent section begins with an explanation of the liturgical season, and then provides a historical context of how the beginning of the Pontifical Swiss Guards are tied to Advent because they came in Advent, 1505. There is a page and recipe dedicated to St. Nicholas, whose feast is December 6. The Apple Bread recipe is one I would like to try. It looks similar to a fruitcake, but the author insists it is not cake, but the “richest of breads.”
The bulk of the recipes is in the Christmas section. There are showpiece recipes such a Pork Tenderloin in Puff Pastry, Lasagna Bolognese and Beef Rib Mediterranean, but also simpler fare like the Salmon Club Sandwich, made with homemade bread.
There are many delicious suggestions for “Dishes on the Side”—rice, risotto, potato and noodle ideas. “The Joy of Fondue” covers the history of fondue (of Swiss origin) and five different cheese fondue recipes. My husband remembers his mother trying fondue meals in the 1970s.
“Christmas Desserts and Cookies” has such a great variety of ideas. I’d like to try the “Cheesecake David” (probably named for the author) for my husband David.
The whole cookbook doesn’t just stick to one type of cuisine, but the main part seems to be more concentrated on Swiss and Italian foods, while the sections “Christmas Around the World” and “Epiphany” really give some flavorful journeys, including a “Fajitas Argentine” to honor Pope Francis.
My oldest son has several food allergies (wheat, dairy and tree nuts), so I often read trying to see if I could make recipes as directed, make with substitutions, or just couldn’t try at all. I always get excited when I find recipes that have potential. Although not marked as such, I found several recipes that could be considered as “gluten-free” using nut flours instead of wheat flours. There are also a few vegetarian (but not vegan) dishes.
I only have two slight disappointments with the book. While there is a detailed Table of Contents, I prefer cookbooks also to have a good index, so I can look up main ingredients and origins and types of recipes. My second wish is more explanation of the origin or story of the recipes, even if it were just a simple label of a country. Not having that doesn’t detract from the wonderful photos and recipes; it’s just a personal preference. The authors do provide some informational tidbits on some recipes, which just whets my appetite for more.
The Vatican Christmas Cookbook published by Sophia Institute Press is a quality hardcover, beautiful full-color cookbook. I know a few people on my Christmas list who will be receiving this Catholic cookbook treasure!
Vatican Christmas Cookbook. Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, NY: 2020. 192pp. Hardback $34.95; Ebook $9.95.
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